Crotalus cerastes 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Squamata Viperidae

Scientific Name: Crotalus cerastes Hallowell, 1854
Common Name(s):
English Sidewinder

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2007
Date Assessed: 2007-03-01
Assessor(s): Frost, D.R., Hammerson, G.A. & Gadsden, H.
Reviewer(s): Cox, N., Chanson, J.S. & Stuart, S.N. (Global Reptile Assessment Coordinating Team)
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species' range extends from southeastern California, southern Nevada, and extreme southwestern Utah, south through southwestern Arizona in the United States, to northeastern Baja California and northwestern Sonora, and Isla Tiburon, in Mexico (Grismer 2002, Stebbins 2003, Campbell and Lamar 2004). In Sonora, this species occurs north and west of the Nogales-Hermosillo-Guaymas highway, with the heaviest concentration in the Desierto de Altar (Armstrong and Murphy 1979). The elevational range extends from below sea level to about 6,000 feet (1,830 m asl) (Stebbins 2003), but most localities are below 1,200 m asl (Campbell and Lamar 2004).
Countries occurrence:
Mexico; United States
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is represented by a large number of occurrences. The adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 100,000. This snake is locally common in suitable habitat. Its extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size are probably relatively stable.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This snake generally inhabits open desert terrain with fine windblown sand, desert flats with sandy washes, or sand dunes sparsely vegetated with creosote bush or mesquite; sometimes it occurs in rocky or gravelly sites (Lowe et al. 1986, Ernst and Ernst 2003, Stebbins 2003, Campbell and Lamar 2004). In the Mojave Desert, snakes concentrated near washes and areas of relatively dense vegetation where mammal burrows were common (Brown and Lillywhite 1992), though in other areas this snake has been found to be more common where vegetation is sparse. During the daytime inactive period, individuals retreat into underground burrows or under bushes, or, at the end of activity at night, snuggle into sand with a minimum of the body exposed, remaining partially buried through daylight until conditions become too hot (then seeking shade) (Brown and Lillywhite 1992). Hibernation sites are in in burrows of rodents or tortoises (Secor cited by Ernst 1992, Brown and Lillywhite 1992). In the eastern Mojave Desert, sidewinders hibernated in rodent burrows at the sand-alluvium interface (Secor 1994). This terrestrial snake rarely climbs into vegetation.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): No major threats to this species are known.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Several to many occurrences of this species are in protected areas.

Classifications [top]

8. Desert -> 8.1. Desert - Hot

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education

Bibliography [top]

Armstrong, B.L. and Murphy, J.B. 1979. The natural history of Mexican rattlesnakes. University of Kansas Museum Natural History, Special Publications 1(5): 1-88.

Brown, T.W. and Lillywhite, H.B. 1992. Autecology of the Mojave Desert sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes, at Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California, USA. In: J.A. Campbell and E.D. Brodie Jr. (eds) Biology of the Pitvipers, pp. 279-308. Selva, Tyler, Texas.

Campbell, J.A. and Lamar, W.W. 1989. The Venomous Reptiles of Latin America. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.

Campbell, J.A. and Lamar, W.W. 2004. The Venomous Reptiles of the Western Hemisphere. Comstock, Ithaca, New York and London, UK.

Ernst, C.H. 1992. Venomous Reptiles of North America. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Ernst, C.H. and Ernst, E.M. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C.

Funk, R.S. 1965. Food of Crotalus cerastes laterorepens in Yuma County, Arizona. Herpetologica 21: 15-17.

Grismer, L.L. 2002. Amphibians and Reptiles of Baja California, Including its Pacific Islands and the Islands in the Sea of Cort├ęs. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.

IUCN. 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 12th September 2007).

Klauber, L.M. 1944. The sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes, with description of a new subspecies. Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History 10: 91-126.

Klauber, L.M. 1972. Rattlesnakes: Their Habits, Life Histories, and Influence on Mankind. Second edition. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

Lowe, C.H., Schwalbe, C.R. and Johnson, T.B. 1986. The Venomous Reptiles of Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Moore, R.G. 1978. Seasonal and daily activity patterns and thermoregulation in the southwestern desert speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus) and the Colorado Desert sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes laterorepens). Copeia 1978: 439-442.

Murray, K.F. 1955. Herpetological collections from Baja California. Herpetologica 11: 33-48.

Savage, J.M. and Cliff, F.S. 1953. A new subspecies of sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes, from Arizona. Chicago Academy of Science Natural History Miscellaneous Publications 119: 1-7.

Secor, S.M. 1994. Ecological significance of movements and activity range for the sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes. Copeia 1994: 631-645.

Stebbins, R.C. 1985. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Second Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts.

Stebbins, R.C. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts.

Citation: Frost, D.R., Hammerson, G.A. & Gadsden, H. 2007. Crotalus cerastes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T64315A12764960. . Downloaded on 27 May 2018.
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